Latest News from the HSE
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Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 is a landmark in law. For the first time, companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious management failures resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care.
The Act, which will come into force on 6 April 2008, clarifies the criminal liabilities of companies including large organisations where serious failures in the management of health and safety result in a fatality.
The Ministry of Justice leads on the Act and more information is available on its Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 webpage.
The Health and Safety Executive welcomes and supports the Act. Although the new offence is not part of health and safety law, it will introduce an important new element in the corporate management of health and safety.
Prosecutions will be of the corporate body and not individuals, but the liability of directors, board members or other individuals under health and safety law or general criminal law, will be unaffected. And the corporate body itself and individuals can still be prosecuted for separate health and safety offences.
The Act also largely removes the Crown immunity that applies to the existing common law corporate manslaughter offence. This is welcome, and consistent with Government and HSC policy to secure the eventual removal of Crown immunity for health and safety offences. The Act provides a number of specific exemptions that cover public policy decisions and the exercise of core public functions.
Use of controlled oil "Red diesel" (April 1st 2003)
With effect from April 1st 2003 any business that deals in controlled oil - otherwise known as Red Diesel must be approved and registered to do so by HM Customs and Excise. For the purposes of these regulations dealing includes passing on such fuel in the tanks of hired vehicles.
It is now illegal to use rebated oils such as red diesel in a road vehicle. To crack down on potential fraud new rules require the distributors of such fuel to check that their customers are entitled to receive this fuel.
A fork lift hire company that hires out trucks with red diesel in their tanks is classified as a dealer for the purposes of this legislation. This applies even if a truck is supplied with just a single litre of fuel in the tank! As such a dealer the company must be approved. In order to do this the company must register with HM Customs and Excise. Registration is a one off requirement so that subsequent accounting for the fuel can be kept to a minimum.
Application to Plant Hire Businesses
Fork lift truck hire companies are plant hire businesses. When the new legislation was introduced the implications were not completely clear. At the request of a number of trade associations the situation has now been clarified by HM Customs and Excise. They have provided an RDCO information note X/03 and this is available through their National Advice Service on 0845 010 9000.
Health and Safety Statistics 2002 - 2003
The number of workplace deaths and injuries in 2002/03 showed no significant change on the previous year's figures, according to new statistics published by the Health and Safety Commission (HSC).
The report, Health and Safety Statistics Highlights, confirmed that 226 people were killed in workplace accidents in 2002/03 -a drop of ten per cent compared to 2001/02's total of 251 fatalities.
It also shows that the rate of work-related deaths also fell, from 0.9 per 100,000 workers in 2001/02 to 0.8 per 100,000 in 2002/03. However, the report found that the rate of major injuries rose by 1.9 per cent during the same period, from 110.9 per 100,000 employees to 113 per 100,000.
The report also reveals that:
There were 126,004 "over three-day" injuries to employees in 2002/03, a slight decrease on the 129,655 injuries recorded in the previous year
71 construction industry workers were killed in 2002/03, compared to 80 deaths in 2001/02.
The report also includes the HSC's most recent statistics on work-related ill health. Although there are no new figures available for 2002/03, the Commission believes that the incidence of work-related stress has roughly doubled since 1990.
The report concludes that there is no clear evidence that progress is being made towards meeting the targets set out in the government's Revitalising Health and Safety strategy.
Average health and safety fines up by over a third
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published its Offences and Penalties Report for 2001/02, which identifies almost 900 companies, organisations and individuals convicted of health and safety offences during 2001/2002. Of the 1,064 cases prosecuted by the HSE, more than 84 per cent resulted in conviction. The average fine for health and safety cases across Great Britain increased by 39 per cent, from £8,790 in 2000/01 to £12,194 in 2001/02. This rise is mainly due to a marked increase in penalties handed down by the higher courts, where fines are unlimited. The lower court average fine is almost unchanged.
Health and Safety Commission (HSC) Chair Bill Callaghan said:
"Health and safety offences are serious crimes. They can cause extreme pain and grief to the victims and their families and it is vital that the level of fines reflects this. While I would prefer not to see incidents and injuries happen in the first place, I am very encouraged to see that the average level of fines in 2001/02 rose by nearly 40 per cent. This sends out a strong message to the small minority of employers who do not take their health and safety responsibilities seriously".
"HSE's policy has been to publish details of all convicted health and safety offenders on its prosecutions database. Corporate reputation is an increasingly important business issue - and customers, investors and insurers are more than ever before taking notice of an organizations health and safety performance. We make no apologies for encouraging them to sit up when that performance falls well short of what the law requires."
Commenting on the report, HSE's Director General Timothy Walker said:
"HSE is an effective enforcer, targeting serious risk and prosecuting the worst offences. I am pleased to note both the high conviction rate in the courts and the fact that the average level of fines has increased. Most employers have a responsible attitude towards protecting the health and safety of their workers. But for those who do not, we will continue our efforts to make them accountable through prosecution in the courts."
The HSE Offences and Penalties report is part of a wider initiative to make information on health and safety failures publicly accessible. Additional information on convictions since 1 April 1999 can be found on HSE's website in the public register of convictions. A register giving information on improvement and prohibition notices issued by HSE is also available on the web site
Working Platforms on Fork Lift Trucks
The Health and Safety Executive have produced a guidance note on the above subject.
The original guidance was produced in 1981 and consisted of just two pages. The latest version has been extended to a seven page booklet and is priced at £6.00 available from HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 2WA Telephone 01787 881165
There is too much information in the new guidance to be published here but we recommend that anyone who uses a safety cage on a fork lift obtains a copy of this document as it contains a large amount of information which is invaluable reading for companies who use such devices.
You should bear in mind that a guidance note is not in itself law but anyone who follows the information contained therein would normally be doing enough to comply with legislation. If you choose not to, then you must be able to prove that the system of work employed resulted in practices that were as safe as if you had been following the guidance note.
HSC Business plan Inspections to increase by 6% in 2002/2003
The HSC has published its Business Plan for 2002 - 2003 which outlines the activities that the Commission and the Health and Safety Executive will undertake in the years 2002 - 2003.
The plan sets out the actions including enforcement drives, campaigns and other initiatives that they intend to carry out during the second year of their Strategic Plan for 2001 - 2004.
In particular it explains how the Commission and Executive will implement the eight priority programmes identified by the strategic plan as key areas needed to help deliver the ten year targets for reducing workplace accidents and ill health. These were set out in the Government's strategy Revitalising Health and Safety
These priority programmes aim to address the main causes of accidents and ill health at work. They cover muscularskeletal disorders, slips and trips, falls from height and workplace transport risks including fork lift truck usage.
According to the document the HSE intends to carry out a total of 86,000 inspections during this period - an increase of 6% on the previous year. They also plan to employ 1,649 inspectors by 1st April 2003
Copies of the plan can be obtained from HSE Books - Tel 01787 881165.
Proposals to amend several major Health and safety Regulations
The Government has begun a consultation process on the proposed amendment of the following Health and Safety Regulations:
The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998
The Quarries Regulations 1999
Anyone who wishes to comment on the proposals can obtain a copy of the consultative document "Proposals for the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations" (CD 175) free from HSE Books.
Proposed Health and Safety offences bill
The proposed Health and Safety (Offences) bill which is detailed below has still to complete its second reading after it was adjourned for a second time until June 20th due to a lack of Parliamentary time. The bill still has the full support of the Government.
Meanwhile in the House of Lords Labour Peer Lord Faulkner of Worcester questioned the Government on whether it still intends to introduce legislation on corporate killing which is mentioned elsewhere on this site. Replying on behalf of the Government Lord Bassam of Brighton reaffirmed its commitment to bringing in a new offence of corporate killing. He added that the Government was carrying out a regulatory impact assessment on the proposed legislation and would introduce a draft bill when time allows
The promised new bill, "Revitalising Health and Safety", originally outlined by the Government in December 2000 appears to have been quietly dropped and was not mentioned in the last Queen's speech. To replace this, there is a prospect of higher fines for breaches of Health and Safety legislation thanks to a ten minute rule bill introduced before the House of Commons on January 7th 2003 by Lawrie Quinn who is the Labour MP for Scarborough and Whitby.
The bill sets out a series of proposals designed to crack down on companies and individuals who fail to comply with their duties under the legislation. The new bill is called "The Health and Safety (Offences) Bill" and if adopted would provide for the following:
Extend the maximum statutory £20,000 fine available in the lower courts to a much wider range of offences that currently attract a maximum fine of only £5,000
Make imprisonment more widely available for most Health and Safety offences
Increase the fine for not having a valid employers' liability insurance policy to £20,000
The proposed legislation is due to receive a second reading in the House at any time and Mr. Quinn said "The reason for proposing these changes is the prevailing concern, shared by the TUC and the Insurance Industry, that Health and Safety offences are treated less seriously than they ought to be by employers and the courts - and ultimately by the wider public". He added "The measures on imprisonment would bring Health and Safety law more into line with modern legislation such as environment and food safety laws".
Whilst the original "Revitalising Health and Safety" bill has possibly been dropped, the Government does still intend to introduce measures through a series of individual changes to the law. We will update this page as and when we get more information so please bookmark it for your future reference.
Major rethink by the HSE on Transport accidents at work
Suggested actions to prevent workplace transport accidents have been released by the Health and Safety Executive. In a keynote speech in January 2002, Dr. Alan Whitehead, the Health and Safety Minister, said "Safe transport is not just good for the workforce but also the wealth of the management"
In 2001 in Great Britain an average of two persons died each week as a result of workplace transport accidents. The HSE have produced a new discussion document which is intended to stimulate debate on the subject.
The most significant thing is that the HSE are to carry out between 60,000 and 70,000 site inspection visits over the next three years which compares to the 2,200 visits conducted during 2000-2001.
The Inspectors will be seeking answers to questions about how the person in control manages the risks from transport in and around their premises. Segregation of vehicles from pedestrians will be high on the agenda as of course will training of operators, maintenance of plant and reversing vehicles.
Other areas being examined are supervision of operators and where necessary, restraining systems for operators of vehicles such as fork lift trucks.
Provisional figures show that 99 people were killed, 2490 had major injuries and 5,857 were seriously injured enough to be off work for three days of more during 2000/01
HSE's report shows 39% increase in fines
The third annual report on Health and Safety Offences and Penalties lists over 900 organisations that have been prosecuted for breaches of Health and Safety offences during 2001 - 2002. The report also reveals that the average fine for a safety prosecution in Great Britain rose by almost 40 per cent during this period.
The HSE's Director General, Timothy Walker, comments "I said in last year's report that the general level of health and safety fines has not matched the seriousness of the offences. The deterrent message has been too weak. I am encouraged to see that the average fine per case in 2001 - 2002 was 39% higher. Of course this may be a short lived rise but I hope it is a step towards fines which are truly proportionate to seriousness and which better reflect huge variations in the wealth of organisations. I feel there is still a long way to go"
The report also includes information on the HSE's prosecution activities and 'names and shames' over 900 organisations and individuals who have been prosecuted in the last year.
In addition to fines the report reveals that 11,009 enforcement notices were issued during 2001 - 2002 with over half served against companies in the manufacturing sector.
New style accident book from January 2004
If you are an employer whose business currently uses an accident book you should be aware of an important change that took place on December 31st 2003.
The current accident book (BI 510) does not comply with data protection laws because anyone entering information into the book can read personal information about a previous entry.
Following advice from the Information Commissioner, the book has been revised and responsibility for its production has been passed on to the Health and Safety Executive.
The new book contains a lot of useful information on first aid and how to manage health and safety in the workplace.It should be used from January 1st 2004.
It can be obtained from good booksellers or from HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 2WA. Telephone 01787 881165. Fax 01787 313995
The ISBN number is 0 7176 2603 2 and the cost is £4.75 plus VAT
Changes for thorough examinations of fork lift trucks
For the past 18 months the Fork Lift Association (FLTA) and the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) have been working together to finalise a system to improve the standard of thorough examinations throughout the industry. This has resulted in the production of a Quality Assurance Procedural Code. This code will soon be recognised throughout the materials handling industry by its connection with a distinctive mark. This mark is the certification mark of Consolidated Fork Truck Services Ltd (CFTS)
CFTS is 50% owned by BITA and 50% by the FLTA. As a name, CFTS will rarely be heard by what is important is the mark and what it stands for.
In time, the status of this mark will affect everyone in the industry. In the shorter term those companies that currently carry out thorough examinations will have to make a choice:
To use this authoritative mark. To do so a company will have to comply fully with the requirements of the CFTS procedural code. This will be achieved by a system of self accreditation which requires detailed information about the staff involved and full commitment to the code. In addition, the company's system for examination will be open to inspection.
A company can elect not to use this code but it will have to ensure that it is fully compliant with current legislation such as LOLER and PUWER. The currently available pads, available from the FLTA, of examination reports will no longer be available and so companies will have to make their own arrangements.
Companies who wish to conduct examinations under this code will have to sign up to its requirements in their entirity. There will be no "mix and match"; it will be all or nothing!
The code takes the BITA guidance note GN28 as the foundation for the examination which explains in detail how it should be conducted and also includes a checklist. There will be changes in documentation as follows:
Competent persons will be require to complete a copy of the inspection report form
There is a new report form that meets the requirements of LOLER 98
There will be a new form similar to an MOT certificate
There will be a disk, similar to a car tax disk, which will have to be in a prominent postion on the truck
If you are a member of the FLTA you will receive the information on the above automatically or you can telephone them on 01256 381441 or fax them on 01256 381735.
You can also email them from on email@example.com
Mobile phone ban from December 1st 2003
Employers now face fines of up to £1,000 for allowing workers to use hand-held mobile phones while driving, under changes to road traffic laws. The Department for Transport announced a complete ban on the use of hand-held mobile phones and similar devices while driving.
Under the ban, which has taken the form of an amendment to the road vehicles (construction and use) regulations 1986, drivers could be prosecuted for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving, and employers could be prosecuted if they cause or permit their staff to do so. However, the DfT makes it clear that employers would not be liable to prosecution solely because they supplied a hand-held phone to a member of staff or because they telephoned an employee who happened to be driving at the time.
The new regulation will apply to all motor vehicles including motorbikes being driven on a public highway, and prohibits the use of any electronic communication device that is held in the driver's hand during any part of its operation. For example hand-held phones used with an earphone and microphone will be covered by the ban because they still require the user to hold the phone in order to press buttons or to read a message on the phone's screen. In addition, the ban will cover all activities that involve holding a mobile phone including sending text messages and accessing the Internet.
However, the DfT says that pushing buttons on a phone while it is in a fixed cradle inside the vehicle or operating it via buttons on the steering wheel or handlebars would not be an offence. It adds that a hand-held phone does not have to be switched off when driving and can be used to receive data so long as the driver is not holding the phone.
In addition, there are a number of exemptions to the ban. These include:
Two-way radio microphones for example those
used by taxi driver and hauliers
Microphones used by coach and bus drivers to
make emergency announcements to passengers
via an in-vehicle loudspeaker system
Emergency '999' calls made on a hand-held
phone if it would be unsafe to stop the vehicle.
In addition the use of hands-free phones which use fixed speakers and are either wired into the vehicle or plugged into a unit, such as a cradle, are not prohibited. Although the DfT says that using a hands-free phone increases the risk of having a road accident it concluded that banning the use of hands-free phones while driving is unenforcable.
Drivers who use hand-held phones while driving or employers who require or permit their workers to do so, will be subject to penalties ranging from a fixed penalty notice of £30 to a fine of up to £1,000 or £2,500 for drivers of goods vehicles or vehicles that carry eight or more passengers. The government also plans to make using a hand-held mobile phone while driving an endorsable offence.
MP Attempts to raise fines for Health and Safety offences
A backbench MP has again introduced a Private Member's Bill aimed at increasing the level of fines imposed for breaches of health and safety law. Labour MP Andrew Love's Ten Minute Rule Bill reintroduces Lawrie Quinn's Health and Safety Offences Bill, which ran out of Parliamentary time last year after its second reading was adjourned five times. Love, who is the MP for Edmonton in north London, said that it was time to 'get tough' on people who broke UK safety laws.
Commenting on the need for the Bill, Love said: 'In the post industrial age most of us expect working life to be relatively comfortable and at the very least safe. We certainly don't expect to be maimed, laid off for life or at worst work ourselves into an early grave. However, bad health and safety practice leading to ill health still goes on, most of it hidden with more than one million people injured at work and approximately two million suffering from ill health caused by work in 2002. This is unacceptable and the government needs to act to stamp out bad practice and protect not only this generation of workers but future generations of workers.'
If Love's Health and Safety at Work (Offences) Bill 2003 /04 becomes law, it would extend the £20,000 maximum fine available in the lower courts to a greater range of health and safety offences, and make imprisonment available to both the higher and lower courts for many more safety offences than at present. The Bill would also increase the fine for not having a valid employers' liability compulsory insurance policy to £20,000, and extend the time limit for bringing prosecutions against uninsured employers.
The bill is being supported by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).Speaking in support of the Bill, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'All too often, employers committing major health and safety crimes are getting away with no more than a slight slap on the wrist.' Higher fines would help focus employer minds on the need for greater safety at work. Bosses who employ workers in dangerous situations should have to pay the price for their carelessness. I wish this Bill every success.'
Revitalising Health and Safety targets. Major improvements needed
Major improvements are necessary if the government's Revitalising Health and Safety targets are to be met, a report published by the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) has revealed.
Writing in the introduction to the report - Health and safety targets: how are we doing? 2002/03 HSC Chairman Bill Callaghan said that 'the real step-change in improved health and safety performance has yet to be delivered'. Although Callaghan welcomed the progress that has been made in some of the areas designated as priority programmes by the HSC for example, falls from height, workplace transport injuries and construction deaths he highlighted a number of areas where further improvement is needed.
He explained: 'There is no clear evidence of change in the fatal and major injury rate, and the balance of evidence suggests that the overall incidence of work-related ill health is likely to have risen since 1999/2000. 'There appears to have been little real progress in other areas, particularly in ill health where there has been no fall in the numbers of musculoskeletal disorders, and data suggests that work-related stress has been increasing in the recent past.'
The warning echoed last year's report, which concluded that the targets for reducing work-related accidents and ill health set out in the government's Revitalising initiative would not be met unless efforts were stepped up. The Revitalising targets include reducing the rate of fatal and major injuries by ten per cent and new cases of occupational ill health by 20 per cent by 2010. According to the report, the rise in cases of work-related stress is the main reason for the increased incidence of occupational ill health since 1999/2000.
However, the report concludes that the HSC's strategy for tackling falls from height, one of its priority programmes, is starting to have an impact on the numbers of injuries caused by workplace falls. For example, 2002/03 saw 49 workers killed as a result of falling from a height - a 29 per cent drop on the previous year.
Meanwhile, the report says the HSE made no progress towards reducing the number of workers killed by moving vehicles in 2002/03, with figures remaining unchanged from 2001/02's total of 39 deaths. This is five more than in 1999/00, the baseline year for measuring progress towards the Revitalising goal of a five per cent reduction by 2004.
New Bill to raise maximum fines for safety offences
The proposed bill aimed at raising the level of fines for Health and Safety offences is likely to run out of Parliamentary time. The second reading of Lawrie Quinn's proposed Health and Safety (offences) bill was adjourned until November 14th 2003.
This was due to an objection from an opposition MP and this is the fifth time that the bill has been adjourned since its introduction in January 2003.
The adjournment means that the bill is unlikely to pass it's second reading during the next session of Parliament but it does have widespread Government support.
The latest information we have, (March 2004), is that the original bill has been taken up by back bench MP Andrew Love (Labour).